Nurses Ease the Stress of EMR Conversion





By Yara Souza, Contributor

Ongoing federal incentives and penalties for the adoption of electronic medical records, or EMR, continue to motivate hospitals and other healthcare facilities to update their systems. Initiated by the American Recovery and Reinstatement Act of 2009, $19 billion in funds have been allocated for healthcare providers to implement EMR systems.

But the transition to an EMR, or to a new EMR, can be difficult and stressful for providers if they lack the proper staff support. Without proper staff training and engagement, studies have found that hospitals can have a 25 percent decrease in productivity after the launch of a new or updated EMR system. Too often in the transition period, healthcare facilities focus on the technology and neglect the people who are going to use it.

AMN Healthcare has a network of nurses who are expert in EMR conversions and help health systems make smooth transitions without the loss of productivity. One example is a large healthcare facility in the Midwest, where an EMR conversion team from AMN made the difference.

The AMN team initiated a three-step strategy for the hospital, which required support to educate its staff before, during and after the “go live” date for its new EMR system. This included supplying a team of onsite clinicians who also were experts in the new EMR system. The team helped provide supplemental staffing so core staff nurses could be available for the classroom training. The extra staff before and after the launch date helped maintained high-quality patient care during the transition. After launch, the EMR nurse experts helped staff nurses get comfortable with the new EMR system.

AMN Division Vice President Kimberly Martini said her teams work closely with each facility to determine a unique strategy on how best to implement and maintain an EMR system.

“Our goal is to provide hospitals with the appropriate levels of support for each of the implementation stages,” she said. “This is critical to avoid efficiency declines that can impact patient care.”

Although patient care is critical, so too is maintaining staff morale during what otherwise can be an exasperating transition even for seasoned practitioners. This is why onsite experts with both clinical and EMR experience is necessary, according to Martini, since they can help to alleviate dissatisfaction, reduce transition times and ultimately lower costs. Regardless of a healthcare facility’s size, paying attention to staff willingness to adopt a new EMR system is perhaps the best way to ensure a successful transition and launch.

Because EMR adoption can hit technical bumps along the way, the AMN team allows for flexibility so that the EMR go-live date can be adjusted. At the facility in the Midwest, technical issues and other factors delayed launch by several months.

“The hospital was entering its high patient census period, its nurse vacancy rate was up and newly hired nursing graduates wouldn’t arrive for six months -- it was the perfect storm,” Martini said. “But fortunately, we were still ready with great nurses already geared up to help when they needed them.”

The ability to ramp up or down is how AMN tailors its EMR conversion service to each facility. AMN’s expertise in understanding the conversion process from beginning to end reaffirms its position as a leader in staff support for EMR transitions and launches.

“Our team has experience in many successful EMR conversions,” Martini said. “And what we’ve seen time and again is that facilities that pay attention to their staff needs are the ones with the most successful EMR adoption.”


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